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The wings of the Tory Party are so far apart they barely belong to the same bird; ROLAND WATSON AT WESTMINSTER.

"I WISH you a very happy New Year," said Nicholas Soames to the Speaker, adding: "As indeed do all wings of the Tory party."

It was a good joke, allowing MPs to ease their Christmas excesses back into the green leather with a bit of a chuckle.

But the Defence Minister's seasonal greeting was a good joke only in the same way that a disabled person is able to laugh about life in a wheelchair.

For the two wings of the Tory party are now so far apart they barely belong to the same bird. It's almost time to do away with the confrontational Commons set-up and re- design the chamber as a triangle, so both Tory parties can have their own set of benches.

Even before Lady Thatcher's "Remember How Everything Used To Be So Wonderful Under Me" speech, the chasms had widened to seismic proportions. Peter Lilley whined that she could have read out the phone directory and been criticised for being divisive.

He missed the point. She is incapable of reading out the phone directory without highlighting the divisions. A Thatcher speech on Whitehall addresses would go something like this:

MAJOR, J: He lives in my house.

PORTILLO, M: He should live in my house.

HESELTINE, M: If he gets anywhere nearer my house I'll intervene to stop him before breakfast, lunch and dinner.

CHANCELLOR, THE (I can't even bring myself to utter his name): He belongs in the special Hell that still exists for those who put up taxes.

The Tory divisions, which used to confine themselves to Europe, now criss- cross the Government benches in every direction.

While Michael Heseltine was announcing last week that the Government had the election in the bag, one of his closest supporters chose a suitably gloomy Commons corridor to confess:

"We've got to the point where it's not if we lose, but by how much we lose. All we can work for now is prevent a complete catastrophe."

Of course, no party is unanimous all the time. It's no secret that the Labour benches contain different opinions, particularly over Europe and economic policy.

But while Labour are united by the will to win, the Tories exhaust themselves fighting over which direction they should take after defeat.

On second thoughts, there's no need to re-design the Commons. There are unlikely to be enough Tories to fill up one set of benches, let alone two.

Unpheasant

business...

AT last ministers are standing up to Brussels. But it's not over controversial issues like metrication.

It is over Emtryl, a drug fed to reared game birds to help them live - until they can be shot.

Government spokesman Lord Carter said Britain would continue to allow the drug, despite a European ban.

It's good to get a sense of ministers' priorities.
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Author:Watson, Roland
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 14, 1996
Words:467
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